From Befuddled to Eureka- Clarifying my narrator’s lens-P.B. Biography

My currrent work-in-progress has had me befuddled. That’s a good word, isn’t it? Befuddled. My Webster’s Dictionary defines the word as, “To confuse or stupefy.” Yep, that sums it up.

Said manuscript is complete and it’s not half bad. Yay!  I’ve got a compelling story with suspenseful scenes and historical significance. But, my inner-editor has been nagging that something’s not working. My basic dilemma is varying the action of multiple scenes to avoid redundancy. I can’t disclose the specific subject of this picture book biography, but suffice it to say that the man’s claims to fame were earned in a grand, but physically limiting setting. So, now that I’m in polish mode, I realize I have too many scenes depicting my character somewhat like a bendable Gumby. Ugh!

After a great deal of therapeutic chocolate consumption, it occurred to me that the real problem isn’t my character’s limited setting. The issue is my narrator’s limited lens. Currently, there’s too much looking AT, and telling ABOUT my character. That can be boring, especially for young readers. Maybe it’s okay that his physical locale doesn’t change drastically, if the text propels the story forward. It turns out the nagging voice is telling me to get closer to the character, to walk in his shoes, and get into his head. Instead of the text and illustrations looking AT him, I’ll reposition my narrator lens to look through him. After all, I want my readers to see what my character sees, and feel what he feels. And, though it’s tricky, I want to show my character as others of the day saw him, too.

I’m reminded of the reality TV show, Survivor Man. He’s presumably all alone in some frighteningly remote place, simply surviving day to day. Sometimes the camera is aimed at him. When he eats those nasty bugs, we see the wince on his face. When he builds the temporary shelter, we watch him struggle and sweat.

Other times, he activates the small camera attached to his hat so that we see what he sees, as if we’re laced right into his hiking boots. When he climbs the tree, we hear the branches snap. When he crosses the river on a rickety bridge, we feel the danger in the tremors of the ropes, and his own breath as it catches. His view is sometimes close and sometimes distant, but it always adds texture to the story.

So, here’s my new word. Eureka!  Webster’s defines the term as, “used to express triumphant achievement.” I think it’s the perfect word for my new sense of clarity.